Visitors to this page should first read Seven Steps for Surviving in a CMYK Workflow.
Redirecting CMYK Art for Web Publishing
There are many reasons for not converting CMYK art to RGB for web publishing—the foremost being that the compressed color gamut and flattened tones in the CMYK image are hard to reverse. The best option is to scan the original art as RGB and proceed to save as web art. In reality many things stand in the way—the original may be long gone, or the artwork may have been created in CMYK to begin with. Desperate designers and photographers often ask how to coax the best RGB image from a CMYK file. Try this process:
- Duplicate the CMYK file.
- Choose Convert to Profile and select sRGB IEC61966.2.1 as the Destination Space Profile. Choose Perceptual Intent and check Black Point Compensation. The sRGB color space contains all colors available on standard noncalibrated monitors, making it a good choice for specifying colors for web publishing.
- Add an adjustment to boost contrast and saturation in the image. First, open the Levels command and click the Auto button. Fine tune with the Input Levels sliders if necessary. If you need to boost color saturation, use the Hue/Saturation command and increase saturation slightly.
- The last adjustment is to size the image correctly. Crop the image, or use Image Size (Image>Image Size) to scale the image for web publishing. Enter the width in pixels, ideally not exceeding 600 pixels, and set the resolution to 72 PPI. Select the Bicubic Sharper option to keep the resized image from appearing fuzzy.
- Finally, save the file as directed, either in JPG, GIF, or PDF formats. I like to use the Save for Web dialog to optimize and save these files.
Follow these steps and you’ll end up with an image with reasonably good contrast, ready to be posted to a web site.
COLOR MANAGEMENT ADVICE FOR CREATIVES:
Fine Tuning Your Workflow
Rich Apollo, expert prepress technician at Priority Litho, a full-service commercial print shop in Missouri, shares the following experience:
Since Priority Litho adopted ICC-based color workflows, Apollo has profiled his presses and researched ideal color settings that produce accurate conversions for his pressroom. These profiles are made available on Priority’s website, and clients are instructed and supported in their use. This service helps designers and photographers get closer to seeing their original color in print, and they’re thrilled to work with knowledgeable prepress staff.
Priority Litho accepts files saved in all flavors, and will handle profiles correctly if present. “In my experience, I’ve found that a good working relationship with your printer will always get you closer to achieving your color matching goals,” says Apollo.
I include this mini case study to illustrate that a state of “color management nirvana” isn’t just hype. Many large and small print establishments worldwide are trained in ICC color workflows; I advise you to seek these printers out. Since the new way of working is quite different from the established closed-loop system, you may be better off working with printers who are experienced in the new technology. The money you save by eliminating unnecessary proofing and correction cycles alone will make the switch worthwhile.
Having said this, I realize you may not be willing to turn away from an established relationship. Here are some tips for inducting your printer into the brave new world of ICC color management:
- As a first step in meeting your printer halfway, suggest that they accept tagged CMYK files that are converted using known printing standards such as SWOP, SNAP, GraCol, FOGRA, etc. If your printer agrees and recommends one, you can use a generic profile based on this standard to produce color that will get you in the ballpark. Some of these generic profiles ship with Adobe applications, while others can be downloaded from the web (see resources).
- Don’t accept instructions like “we take ‘plain‘ CMYK.” There’s no such thing. CMYK data, by its very nature, is device-specific. Ask for a press or proofer profile. If your printer is unable or unwilling to provide one, you can offer to work with them to profile their in-house contract proofing system. This creates an equally valid profile since press operators pride themselves on their ability to match print to the proofer. The profiling process is straightforward (see section on Advice for Print Providers, below); you can assist by facilitating this and offer to do quality testing afterwards. In my experience, the first brush with success will convert the most resistant printer to this technology.
- If you’d rather submit tagged RGB files for the printer to convert, you need to establish solid communication with the prepress department. Make sure that they are prepared to handle your tagged files correctly.
COLOR MANAGEMENT ADVICE FOR PRINT PROVIDERS:
When Clients Demand Support for Color-Managed Files
It’s in your interest to provide accurate data about your printing conditions to suit the new workflows that designers are involved with. And there’s no time like the present to learn about ICC color management and plan ways to incorporate it in your shop. This can be done in baby steps, allowing you to evaluate the technology along the way. With color management completely implemented, you can expect great savings in time and materials. You can also market yourself to print buyers looking for printers with color management knowledge. Here are some tips to help you get started:
- Support your clients by providing good profiles for your printing conditions. You can start by identifying a reference printing standard for which your press might be set up to operate. While this approach may not utilize the unique features of your press, it will at least result in better process control and predictability from your clients’ perspective.
Profiles based on SWOP standards already ship with Adobe applications—but they’re not the only game in town. You can use profiles based on other standards such as GraCol, SNAP, and other specifications. The ECI (European Color Initiative) is another source for excellent profiles based on international printing standards (see resources).
- For tighter color matching, consider getting your proofing system professionally profiled. Many color management firms offer remote service, which is fairly straightforward. First, a CMYK file comprised of a target will be output on your proofer. The proofed target is sent back to the company, where a custom profile is created, based on several measurements. The profile is sent you via e-mail, with installation instructions.
- Ultimately, you can create press profiles for different paper stocks. This process can take a few days to set up, but you’re guaranteed accurate results.
- Finally, calibrate and profile at least one monitor in prepress. Learn how to handle RGB files with profiles and designate an in-house resource to field questions and support your clients. Good luck!
Jerry D’Onofrio, prepress guru at O’Neil Printing in Phoenix has this easy workflow to offer clients: Jerry instructs customers to use a standard press profile in Photoshop to separate RGB art to CMYK (US Sheetfed Coated, etc.). This creates a viable separation his press can easily match.
For clients that demand critical color matching, he dispatches a custom profile, based on his proofing system, for client soft proofing. Clients can color correct while previewing final color and also compare the appearance of the soft proof with the hard proof that’s returned to them.
Jerry is a proactive prepress technician and will often venture out to visit key clients for on-site services. He may be called upon to calibrate and profile monitors, profile scanners, or train the design staff on preparing files correctly. Jerry’s thoughts about why this workflow works for his clients: “My clients are happy to end up with a CMYK file that is color managed, yet retains flexible output options because of its SWOP profile.”